Archive for February, 2009

Parents in the Honk

February 28, 2009

Parents are here to visit. They arrived Thursday morning late, and I am just so happy to have them. I hadn’t seen them since last July, when I headed off to Yinchuan. It was the first time I was away from them for Christmas as well. And now they’re here for two whole weeks. Totally, totally amazing.

They’re staying in a wee flat in Sheung Wan on the 4th floor. Actually it’s pretty reasonably sized, though extremely white. Since there’s two bedrooms I’m sleeping here two. The first day they were pretty tired after the long-haul flight, but I still dragged them to Tsim Sha Tsui (for some reason I don’t really like calling it TST…) to see the light display and eat at the famous Pakistani restaurant in Chungking mansions. Friday evening we met up in the dinner for Thai food followed by whisky. Today we went shopping in Causway Bay, followed by Pizza Hut. A very concerned dad also got me to investigate a restaurant around the corner. 

It says something along the lines of: a) noodles etc… b) sandwiches, c) d) other kinds of food… e) HUGE photograph of grinning black dog! Bujillions of other dog photos stuck underneath. Mum reckons the woman just has an evil sense of humour. You see it turned out that she’s just really into dogs and those are pics of her dogs and her friends’ dogs, stuck up for all the word to see. Seems fair enough I suppose.

Of course I have eaten dog several times in China. Then in Yuanyang in Yunnan I swore I’d never touch the stuff again. Outside the bus station we saw a man beating a dog with a stick. He beat it harder and harder while it yelped and yelped. I remember thinking, if he’s not careful he’ll seriously injure or even kill it. Next thing it had fallen down dead. He grabbed it by the hind legs and dragged it into the shop behind – only then did I notice it said 狗肉店 (dog’s meat shop) in big letters. Weirdly enough I ended up eating dog later that same day (long story involving fishing using hands with Hani people  in their rice terrace paddies followed by lunch and rice wine) . But I’m trying to stay clear of it for the now. 

Anyways mum and dad are in bed now – I can hear dad snoring. And I’m about to go to. The bed here is ubersoft and big – takes up almost the whole room so the door doesn’t open properly. Considering I share a room at the uni, and in Kunming I slept on what was pretty much a sheet over a board or shared Annabel’s bed, this is total luxury! Tomorrow we’re going to be real tourists and head for the Big Buddha on Lantau (weather permitting) and since M&D get up insanely early I’d best be getting some sleep in. 

I really am so happy there here. And I feel like a small child again 🙂



February 25, 2009

Apparently it’s “Burma Week” at HKU and possibly beyond. When I first rushed past the posters and stalls I thought irritably that I just don’t have time with these damn courses, but today I was finally coaxed to listen to an openair lecture outside the library. I wish we could copy these openair lectures I have seen so many of here back in Edinburgh – but suppose the weather would be a major hindrance.

Very interesting talk, with speakers from a HK based free Burma organisation and two professors, all of whom seemed v knowledgable. There were also Burmese students and others from the area in the audience. The points I especially remember being discussed were:

– dichotomy of two world approaches towards the country, summarised as “Burma approach” by west led by US with focus on sanctions etc, and “Myanmar approach” from Asean led by China who were not keen to interfere directly. Challenge of unifying approaches to stop them undermining eachother and lead to more constructive outcomes.

– Question of Rohingya boatpeople who apparently lived in the area since at least 1300’s, now being denied citizenship and routinely discriminated against by Burmese junta with devastating consequences, how this problem relates to Burmese (esp colonial) history, and the region generally.

– Need for Asean and countries in the area to be closely involved with Burma’s future, given that they have more direct interest, Burma cares more about what they think, Burmese studying in these countries are more likely to return, etc.

– Issue of foreign investment and tourism, pros and cons, general concensus that anything contributing to opening up is good, but need to be socially responsible. Boycott of tourism widely considered outdated so long as not irresponsible tourism.

– Discussion of 2010 elections, divided opinion over whether should be boycotted and delcared a sham, or welcomed as the only thing on the table, and since democratic institutions tend to take on a life of their own and lead to more democratic openings.

Thoroughly enjoyed the talk. Until previously, my knowledge and interest in Burma stemmed from just a few events… reading From the Land of Green Ghosts by Pascal Khoo Thwe at high school and have him come for a talk… listening to Juliette and Tim’s discussions and lobbying on Burma at Edinburgh… and then stumbling into the Burmese border in a Bulangzu dominated area in southern Yunnan last December, and for the first time meeting a Burmese minority on their own soil. (even if only about 10cm into it!)

Looking forward to finding out more in the future!

An old beginning

February 19, 2009

Last night I met Vicky who was the year ahead of me at highschool, and is back in Hong Kong just for this week. She took me to the cinema to see “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”. Despite being very confused for about the first half hour, I loved it. It is a long while since I have been so moved by a film. And although the plotline being potentially very cheesy, in my opinion it managed to pull it off. I think what moved me the most was the love story – thinking of two people, meant for each other, but moving in opposite directions and only meeting in the middle for a short short while. Since about 10, I’ve been pretty cynical about “true love” etc, but to be honest there was something in this movie that really tugged at something deep inside me. It also really made me miss my mum – but she and my dad are coming in just a week’s time! No really that is one film I will watch again and again.  I wonder if it’ll end up being really really popular in China, like Forrest Gump…

Aside from watching Benjamin Button’s old beginning, I have also started mine: another blog (just like buses come in threes…) with the idea of forcing myself to do my flipping uncertainty and information course. Please don’t click on the link unless you have no life.


February 18, 2009

OK I’ve screwed up academically before. I know how it feels to fail an exam. The throat-wrenching 2 hour wait to leave as everyone around you scribbles away, and you stare hopelessly at a page of equations. The 8 hour coffee-fuelled essay dash that turns into frantically refreshing your inbox and tearing at split ends. 18% stamped across the bottom of your returned paper. But this is the first time I’ve felt such a long-term sense of dread.

I’m totally screwed. Our economics course on “Uncertainty and Information” is way over my head. And seems to be way over the head of my classmates on exchange as well. I really don’t know what to do. It seems there’s no way I can pass this course. It is just maths, and I’m no good at maths, that’s been proven time and time again. Our lecturer says it’s one of the hardest courses the university offers. I’m going to fail. I really am. This afternoon I sat in the shade overlooking tumbly white-block buildings and as slither of Hong Kong sea, and flicked through the South China Morning Post, wondering how on earth I’m going to get myself out of this crisis.*

And of course, looking through the newspaper, I read all these fascinating stories about things I wanted to be doing. Articles about the China-Vietnam border, then and now, war and trade. Details of Hong Kong architectural heritage, discussion of human rights in China and the democracy party in Japan. Dammit this is what I want to be doing… I don’t know what exactly, but something to do with this, to be in there, feeling and contributing to the wider world, the colourful, passionate, historical, real world that is pulsing around everywhere… everywhere but my mathsy textbooks and the stuffy silence of the HKU library, where sleeping students are draped around like an old people’s home.

Broken bathtubs. Here’s a photo taken by my Korean roommate Eunjoo, of the two of us smiling in the first couple of weeks in Hong Kong. But at least the darkness isn’t here at the minute. I’m dispirited and terrified of this course, but my black dragon (low moods) is at bay. So I should be able to think of something. img_0170

Seriously, WTF am I going to do.

*obviously, description as “crisis” is huge exaggeration and overstatement, given that this is just one course and hardly my whole future. but this is how it feels, especially given that I have to pass it and the grade counts directly towards my degree.

Another deadlog?

February 17, 2009

Cyberdebris. Diarydebris. Let’s see how soon this one  joins the scrapheap. Blogging seems sortof wholesome and cutting edge, but also just too much mafan. Facebook and BBC Asia Pacific are much more tempting for webcrastination. I’ve started and abandoned two blogs and half a dozen wikis, almost matching the dead journals collection. So yep pretty sure this sort of regular, disciplined, not-deleting-old-stuff, sticking-to-the-same-format type thing just isn’t for me. Or indeed for most regular (i.e. lazy, easily distracted, short-attention spanned) folks.

Nevertheless, three things prompted me to take another crack at blogging:

1) Mum’s new blog to keep track of back home:

2) Stumbling across a link to 钱烈宪要发言 (Prostate in Flames) by 徐来 (Xu Lai), the first time I’ve ever looked at a Chinese blog. What was the most recent posting? The guy was deliberately stabbed four hours before and is now in hospital!

3) Following links from above, come across Rebecca MacKinnon… then discover she teaches a Hong Kong U, where I’m studying at the minute!

Seems the stars for this month are aligned. I’m a brand new blogger, with all the zeal and idealism of the newly converted. Before my enthusiasm runs it course and burns out, here’s the links to blogs of friends I like to have a look at:

Juanjaime:  “better at guessing, hopeless at defining, argues a lot”

Sean:  “Intellectual Scribblings”

Emmi: “Life of an Emotional Cripple”

Niko: “Vonfuse(d) Me”

Also we have Mark’s “Cycling a Beerbike from China to Europe”.

And now back to the homework sheet on uncertainty and information. Due tomorrow morning. *Groan*.